EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s that time of the year again when Robin takes off for his monthlong family trip to Europe. He’s already visited Athens and Santorini in Greece and has spent the week in the beautiful Cinque Terre area of Liguria, Italy. Now, he’s headed south to explore the delights of Tuscany from a tiny village between Cortona and Montepulciano where Frances Mayes wrote her best-selling book “Under the Tuscan Sun,” which went on to become an all-time favorite movie starring Diane Lane.
In his absence, a great number of showbiz entertainers, celebrity VIPs, chefs, restaurateurs and our Vegas dignitaries have stepped forward to write their guest columns. Today, we welcome Jason Tenner, a homegrown Vegas entertainer who has stunned tourists and locals alike with his uncanny look-alike and sound-alike tribute to the late Paisley Park genius singer and musician Prince. Often guests depart his Westgate theater convinced Jason is better than the real star!
The music in the club is pulsating and loud. The air is thick and lazered; heavy with various vapes, colognes and hazer fluid. Short skirts and slim slacks separate bodies filled with overpriced shots, topped by heads filled with Hollywood visions of Vegas and dreams of capturing it all for social. No one really dances or does much of anything but everyone is a star. In a town once known for showcasing world-class musicians and entertainers in its showrooms and lounges, the nightclub scene has come to dominate Sin City nightlife and entertainment, leaving many performers and show producers to ply their trade in others ways or elsewhere.
For some that have served the Las Vegas entertainment community for the last decade or so, seeing and surviving the changes the city has undergone in that time, has not been easy. Large productions that were staples on the Vegas landscape for years, have closed putting hundreds of dancers, musicians, singers and entertainers out of work. Some opt to leave home and find work on the road and overseas while others busk and take to the streets to perform. Still, many remain unable to find work in the fields they love and have trained for most of their lives in a city that, at one time, inspired their dreams.
Lounges, once home to stages and performers, have disappeared with “ultra lounges” taking their place. The atmosphere is more of social interaction than entertainment. As great as social media is at connecting people and reaching those interested in you or what you are interested in, it seems as though the, “see and be seen” culture combined with the lack of live instrumentation in today’s music and its message, has turned people’s attention away from watching skilled musicians and entertainers. Having a DJ, go-go dancers and a super-sexed atmosphere is the new backdrop for a night well spent. The industry and culture have shifted.
Widely available and easy to use digital audio workstations, have given birth to “laptop music” that requires little to no musical ability to create. Most programs, can take a recorded performance and automatically pitch and time correct it making a horrible vocal or instrument part sound flawless. The computer itself has become an instrument, opening a whole new world of expression for a group that otherwise would not be able to make music. Although some of it is good, the work it takes to become great at performing and playing an instrument or developing vocal skill, isn’t as important as it once was in the industry. There is a light, however, as more and more artists are challenging this cultural turn-down. In hip-hop for instance, “mumble rappers” are being called out in Cyphers, or public freestyle battles, to showcase their artistry with words while main stream artists like Bruno Mars, regularly use live instrumentation on records and in concert performances.
Las Vegas still has plenty of live music and entertainment to offer in spite of the city’s changes and for those that have tired of the club scene, what remains is pretty good stuff. Cover bands like Phoenix at Mandalay Bay offer great renditions of classic rock tunes, while Vegas star Chris Phillips, aka Zowie Bowie, tours the town entertaining thousands weekly with top 40 hits, live musicians and accompanied by longtime Vegas feature singer, Jaime Lynch. Productions showcasing all live singers and musicians such as Motown review, “Hitsville” at Planet Hollywood and “Purple Reign The Prince Tribute Show” at Westgate, have remained perfect fixes for live music and entertainment junkies. If beautiful, talented, smart and sexy is what you crave, Jennifer Romas, star and producer of “Sexxy” at Westgate, is one example of a dancer who upped her game, bucking the changing Vegas tide and successfully producing her own burlesque show that employs a team of talented performers. In a word, S-E-X-X-Y!
There is no doubt that Las Vegas will remain a city known for its entertainment and nightlife. Mega stars will continue to play the town and take residencies, and the after-dark scene will continue to evolve to meet the demands of the visiting public. Whether or not the city regains its status as a mecca for entertainers and musicians seeking work, remains unseen. Here’s to the future of the artist and the art in Sin City. Cheers!